Football Players Put Peanuts in Allergic Teammate's Locker — School District Says It's Not Bullying (Exclusive)

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“This could have killed him,” says mom Shawna Mannon, who’s speaking out about how her son’s Texas school district handled the incident

<p>Courtesy Shawna Mannon</p> Shawna Mannon with son Carter.<p>Courtesy Shawna Mannon</p> Shawna Mannon with son Carter.

Courtesy Shawna Mannon

Shawna Mannon with son Carter.

Carter Mannon was just 9 months old when his family discovered he had a nut allergy.

“We had him sitting on the counter, and my husband was making a peanut butter sandwich right next to him. Carter reached his hand inside of the peanut butter jar and he ended up smearing it on himself,” his mom, Shawna Mannon, tells PEOPLE exclusively.

“He broke out in hives right away — it was a perfect handprint of hives. And that’s when we realized, ‘Oh, he must be allergic.’”

Testing confirmed Carter’s allergy — and as his mom tells PEOPLE, instead of outgrowing it, Carter’s allergies got worse. “His levels are off the chart,” his mom says. “You have this big strong kid [and] one little peanut could take him down, could kill him.”

His allergy was well-documented at Lake Travis High School, especially after freshman year, when he accidentally ate an unlabeled peanut butter cookie, which prompted two EpiPen doses — and a trip to the emergency room.

<p>Courtesy Shawna Mannon</p> Carter Mannon.<p>Courtesy Shawna Mannon</p> Carter Mannon.

Courtesy Shawna Mannon

Carter Mannon.

EpiPens deliver life-saving emergency doses of epinephrine in cases of severe allergic reactions, per the Mayo Clinic. The biggest risk from allergy exposure is anaphylaxis, “a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction.”

During anaphylactic shock, “blood pressure drops suddenly, and the airways narrow, blocking your breathing. The pulse may be fast and weak, and you may have a skin rash. You may also get nauseous and vomit,” according to the Mayo Clinic . “Anaphylaxis needs to be treated right away with an injection of epinephrine. If it isn’t treated right away, it can be deadly.”

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But while the peanut butter cookie exposure wasn’t done deliberately, what happened in October of Carter’s sophomore year was no accident.

Shawna tells PEOPLE that her son, who was the youngest varsity football player, was quizzed about his allergy by his teammates.

“They were kind of joking around about it and they said, ‘But could it kill you if it touched you?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, it absolutely could.’ If it got in his nose, eyes or mouth, that’s where it would go into anaphylactic shock. And so he told them, ‘Yes, it could absolutely kill me.’ “

<p>Courtesy Shawna Mannon</p> Carter Mannon as a baby.<p>Courtesy Shawna Mannon</p> Carter Mannon as a baby.

Courtesy Shawna Mannon

Carter Mannon as a baby.

“Then, the next day before the game, they went in and they had put peanuts in his locker, on his jersey and in his cleats,” Shawna says. “It was a can of peanuts that they just kind of scattered throughout his locker and put in his cleats.”

Shawna tells PEOPLE that “one of the boys came back and tried to kind of clean up a little bit, but the residue was there, the damage had been done.”

When Carter went to his locker to get dressed for the game, Shawna tells PEOPLE, “When he grabbed his jersey, peanuts fell out everywhere. He realized there were some still left in his cleats. He looked at his arm, [and] he’s got hives already starting to develop.”

His teammates’ reactions were mixed. “One of the boys was sharing a video with the other teammates of them doing what they did,” she says. “A bunch of them were kind of just laughing … A few of the boys did say, ‘That’s not cool, that could have killed him.’ “

Shawna reported the incident to the school, which turned discipline over to the athletic department. The boys were benched for two days, forced to switch locker rooms and do extra runs at practice.

But while one student showed remorse, Shawna tells PEOPLE, “There was a lot of bullying that came after.”

<p>Courtesy Shawna Mannon</p> Carter Mannon on the field.<p>Courtesy Shawna Mannon</p> Carter Mannon on the field.

Courtesy Shawna Mannon

Carter Mannon on the field.

“The kid would flick him as he’s walking down the hall from behind. There was a lot of verbal retaliation … There was one point where someone in the locker room put a peanut butter granola bar in his backpack.”

Carter’s older sister, a senior at the high school, was also harassed, Shawna tells PEOPLE.

“There have been kids on the team that have created fake accounts on Instagram,” Shawna tells PEOPLE. “They have been so horrible and nasty to her.”

Shawna went to the school board in November to report the incident, and “at that point, they opened an investigation on the bullying. They decided that it did not qualify as bullying.”

A representative for the Lake Travis Independent School District tells PEOPLE, “Under the Texas Education Code, bullying is a very specific behavior, and is defined as an act or pattern of acts that physically harms a student or materially and substantially disrupts the educational process. Upon concluding our investigation, it was determined that the legal elements of bullying were not met. However, in many instances, even if the legal elements of bullying are not met, the district addresses behaviors that do not meet expectations in policy or programs.“

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Shawna claims that “when they interviewed my son, they said he didn’t ‘look bullied.’ “

In a statement issued to PEOPLE, the school district says, “Immediately after the incident, the District initiated investigations on numerous levels. The event was not investigated as a bullying incident until the parent of one of the students involved reported it as such in November 2023. After hearing the parent’s concerns, campus administration reached out to the parent regarding potential bullying. Under our Student Code of Conduct and Extracurricular Code of Conduct, school administrators, coaches and directors work together to review all facts and circumstances surrounding a particular event and determine appropriate disciplinary action or sanctions.”

According to state statutes shared by the Texas Education Agency, bullying is defined as “physically harming a student, damaging a student’s property or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student’s person or of damage to the student’s property; is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student.”

<p>Courtesy Shawna Mannon</p> Young Carter Mannon.<p>Courtesy Shawna Mannon</p> Young Carter Mannon.

Courtesy Shawna Mannon

Young Carter Mannon.

But as the school district tells PEOPLE, “Both the Assistant District Attorney’s Office and the County Attorney’s Office were consulted to review potential criminal charges. While these agencies may advise on the elements of an offense, they do not make any final determinations. Technically speaking, these agencies did not open a case regarding this incident. Instead, these agencies and their representatives provided guidance to the district. Working with the agencies identified in the previous response, the Lake Travis ISD Police Department determined criminal charges were not warranted. As a result, Lake Travis ISD Police closed its case on December 6, 2023.”

For the Mannons — who who have three children in total, including a sixth grader in the Lake Travis school system — their future is uncertain, as they’re planning to move all their children out of the district.

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Carter has already switched schools.

“I felt like the school is no longer a safe place for him, mentally, physically. I didn’t trust the district anymore to keep him safe,” Shawna tells PEOPLE.

The mom of three is also working with lobbyists to help kids like Carter.

“We’re working to get a law in place to protect kids with food allergies from attacks like this,” she said. “We also want to redefine the definition of bullying in the state of Texas.”

“When you ask somebody, ‘Could this kill you?’ and then you just do exactly what you just asked… This is not a prank or joke,” she tells PEOPLE. “This could have killed him if it was if it was on a water bottle, if it was on his face mask, his helmet, these things would have gotten into his system and he would have been in anaphylactic shock.”

She adds, “I need these boys to understand that this could have killed him.”

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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